Nations League: Czechs relegated after loss to Switzerland, Spain beat Portugal

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Nations League: Czechs relegated after loss to Switzerland, Spain beat Portugal

Embolo (right) sent the Czechs down to League B
Embolo (right) sent the Czechs down to League BProfimedia
Spain snatched qualification to the UEFA Nations League (UNL) finals as Álvaro Morata scored a dramatic 88th-minute winner to defeat Portugal in Braga. The Czech Republic will be playing League B football in the 2024/25 UEFA Nations League after losing 2-1 against Switzerland, with a missed penalty costing the Euro 96 finalists dearly.

Portugal - Spain 0-1

Considering Spain were in must-win territory, there was an evident lack of urgency from the visitors in a timid first-half display, something that has dogged them throughout the group stage. Pablo Sarabia saw an early effort blocked, but Luis Enrique’s men failed to register a shot on target before the break, and became more and more open at the back as the half progressed.

Manchester United midfielder Bruno Fernandes’ impressive passing range allowed him to take advantage of the free space, as he found Diogo Jota with a glorious ball, but the forward’s effort was brilliantly denied by Unai Simón. Moments later he had a go himself, using the time he had been allowed to line up a piledriver from range. The crowd thought the ball had nestled in the top corner, but it had only found the side netting.

Fernando Santos’ men continued to threaten and Jota fed Cristiano Ronaldo in on goal in the opening stages of the second half, but Simón was equal to his driven effort. Rúben Dias was next to be denied as his close-range effort was cleared over the bar by Dani Carvajal. Spain still weren’t offering enough and appeared short on desire as they chased a place in the UNL finals.

A raft of substitutions added impetus to the Spanish performance, but there was still nothing to trouble Diogo Costa in the Portuguese goal. Finally, the visitors opted for the direct path to goal and that earned them a dramatic winner. The cross to the back post was nodded across goal by Nico Williams, allowing Morata the simplest of tasks to tap-in and earn his side qualification to the UNL finals for a second consecutive campaign, claiming a first competitive away victory in Portugal for over 80 years in the process.

Flashscore Man of the Match: Rodri (Spain)

Switzerland - Czech Republic 2-1

It was simply win or bust for the Czech Republic tonight, and the visitors set about finding an opening goal from the very outset. Only a lick of paint denied Adam Vlkanova from firing the Czech Republic ahead, as his effort crashed back off the woodwork, and Václav Černý was next in line to try his luck. This time, the FC Twente winger managed to work Yann Sommer, forcing the Swiss stopper into an excellent save to tip an effort around the post.

But with the visitors’ need for all-out-attack came vulnerability, and it was Switzerland who drew first blood when Xherdan Shaqiri’s testing delivery was powered home by Remo Freuler. In the blink of an eye, the game then lurched beyond the reach of the Czech Republic, who gifted Switzerland the ball straight from kick-off, and Breel Embolo made no mistake in driving forward and firing home from the edge of the area to double his nation’s advantage.

There was to be one more twist before the break though, as the Czechs handed themselves a lifeline when David Zima cut the ball back for Patrik Schick to sweep home and halve the arrears. Switzerland were the architects of their own downfall at times, spurning multiple opportunities in the early stages of the second half before a moment of madness from Nico Elvedi resulted in him felling Schick in the area.

After missing a penalty in the game prior, Schick was relieved of his penalty duties, but the outcome was the same for Tomáš Souček who was denied by Sommer. Ruben Vargas thought he had sealed Switzerland’s spot at the top table of UNL football for the next term, but the assistant’s flag ruled out his strike which would potentially have sealed the game.

That disallowed goal set up a grandstand final 15 minutes, but the Czech Republic were unable to capitalise on the assistant’s stay of execution as they bowed out of League A. Sharing their group with three sides ranked inside FIFA’s top-20 certainly didn’t help their survival hopes, nor did the woodwork, as Jan Kuchta hit Sommer’s upright for the third time of the evening, perhaps summing up the Czechs’ luck on the night.

Flashscore Man of the Match: Remo Freuler (Switzerland)

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